In the booth with David Morales

David Morales has forgotten more about House music than any artist working within the field today can claim to know. The New York DJ, producer, remixer and label owner was there at the advent of the genre, counting Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan as contemporaries. He had played the Paradise Garage, frequented the Loft and held residencies at places like Zanzibar, but his biggest contribution, remains in his efforts in bringing House music to the masses with remixes for Mariah Carey, Jamiroquai and Michael Jackson dotting an ever-impressive discography.

Alongside Frankie Knuckles, he established the Def Mix label, and as a DJ he was one of the first DJs ever to warrant the superstar status and toured the world. Highlights in the House music lexicon regularly dot his career. Winning the grammy for remixer of the year, sets and residencies during Ibiza’s late nineties reign; and tracks like “Needin’ you,” had maintained his prominence in the House music scene which culminates today in a continued appeal as a world-renowned DJ and producer. David Morales has had a career in House music three times over and in his latest venture, the label DIRIDIM, he’s established yet another new phase in a career that continues to evolve without losing sight of those all-important roots of the genre. 

A figure that assumes the legacy of the genre and the New York faction of its roots, David Morales represents a ideology that we’ve always tried to encourage and underscore at Jaeger and during a recent set at Frædag, he helped g-HA & Olanskii and Olefonken instill this ideology again. Between gospel-influenced vocals, syncopated hats, deep bass grooves and four on the floor kicks, David Morales put together a set of mostly original music and edits, bridging the gap between the origins of this music and its future. 

We caught up with Mr. Morales whortly after to ask some questions while we listen back to his enigmatic set, recorded in our basement. You can read a full profile on him here.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for us. We really enjoyed your set here and particularly listening back to it today. Did playing at Jaeger, direct you in any way  you thought you might not have gone into ahead of the night? 

Not at all. Before I accepted the gig I was told that the night was all about house music and that the crowd appreciated good music.

All those classic elements of House are in there, the vocals, the syncopated percussion and four on the floor. While those core elements remain, House has gone through an immense evolution through the course of your career, but what is the ultimate appeal for you as a DJ that keeps you interested and excited about the genre? 

There’s a lot of good new music out. The problem is that you have to listen to a lot of bad music to find it. You have to evolve with the times. The game has changed but music is still music. And people still like to dance to music. I’ve tried every format of Djing as in vinyl, CDJ’s and computer. They’re all interesting. At the end of the day it’s about the music.

I’ve read some interviews where you’ve mentioned that you weren’t really that inspired or influenced by your Latin roots and music, but I thought I heard some Latin rhythms in this mix in the beginning. What is your relationship with those roost today?

It’s funny because since I became a producer/songwriter I got to really appreciate my roots. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate it earlier. But I love a good rhythm and when it comes to latin music it’s all about the rhythm.

As somebody that was at the forefront of House music from the beginning, do you feel that distance between you and your audience has grown and how do you try and maintain that relevance? 

That’s a very interesting question… As a DJ that’s been playing for 44 years, I’ve outgrown my audience twice easily, maybe even 3 times. I mean most of the people that I grew up with got married, kids even grandchildren. They don’t represent the scene today like they did when they were younger. If I wasn’t Djing I wouldn’t be going out clubbing unless it’s a reunion night. I know that I’m not in the same demand as I was 10,15, 20 years ago. All DJ’s come up with a following. The hard part is maintaining some sort of relevance. I’m lucky that DJing has no age limit. And as long as you stay current with your music, the art of Djing is what it is.

How do you think the role of the DJ has changed from when you first started playing to today? 

Well technology for one. And now you have social media. Also the biggest change is set times. Rarely does a DJ play the whole night. So the biggest thing is that there’s no continuity or should I say flow. Therefore there are less risks taken. It’s hard to express yourself when you only have 1-2 hours to play. Also the DJ was not the focal point. You were up in the clouds somewhere or hidden in the corner. And let’s face it the money has changed DRAMATICALLY!

Besides “Finally” at the end, all the pieces in your mix favour a contemporary. What do you look for in music today to make it into your sets, and where do you draw the line when it comes to older pieces?

Most of my set is 90% of my new productions and remixes mixed in with other new music. I, on occasion, throw in a classic. What makes a good DJ is choosing good music.

Are you still editing / remixing lots of music to work in your sets today?

Yes very much. I’m in the studio almost everyday during the week. I’m always prepared. I always travel with my studio. Thank god for technology.

It seems that since establishing Diridim, you’ve been far more active in making and producing music again. What inspired you to start your own label again, and what has the label encouraged in terms of music for you?

After DEF MIX I felt that it was time for a new chapter. It’s why I started DIRIDIM which means “the rhythm”. Diridim is all about where my head is at now musically. I want to experiment with new sounds and talent, there’s so much talent out there. I want to branch out into world music and bridge it all together.

Those distinctive elements in your music, the vocals and the progression through your tracks remains central to your work on the label. What are some of the fundamental ideologies that inform your work and the label and how has it evolved throughout your career? 

I grew up on an intro, break and outro. The journey that a track or song is supposed to take you on. It’s no different than any kind of music.

What effect has launching the label and this new music had on your DJ sets? 

It has had a huge effect on my sets. The only difference is that I’m playing my own music more than others. 

Club music and House music is so popular today,  and although it still feels quite a way off from its peak in the mid to late nineties, you’ve experienced it all before I imagine. So, from experience alone, where do you see the music going from here and what do you hope to get out of it in the future?

I just hope to see and keep music alive and thriving.